‘She was born at 22 weeks and 1 day, so by hospital policy, they refused any life-saving measures.’: Bereaved mom shares grief journey, spreads kindness in daughter’s honor

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Disclaimer: This story contains details of child loss and may be triggering to some.

Infertility And IUI

“In November 2018, my husband, Derek, and I got married after being together for five years. We knew we wanted to begin growing our family shortly after marriage, and after a year and a half of no luck, we began seeking additional treatments with a local fertility clinic.

I had been diagnosed with PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, in my early adulthood but was never really informed about the impacts it could have on my fertility. So when my husband and I had to seek out fertility treatment, I felt really defeated. This wasn’t how I envisioned us beginning our family and it felt really unfair.

After extensive testing, we realized I was, in fact, the reason we couldn’t get pregnant. We had already completed a few rounds of Clomid and Letrozole to trigger ovulation and, unfortunately, had a chemical pregnancy followed by a few months of negative tests. Because of the many failed attempts at a medicated cycle, we decided to try our luck with an IUI or an Intrauterine Insemination.

mom resting in bed
Courtesy of Hillary Scarbath

On March 17th, 2020, Derek and I completed our first IUI. Google got to me and all I could think was this was going to fail again and my vision of being a mother slowly faded. Lauren Daigle’s song, ‘You Say,’ came on the radio before and after our IUI and I played the song on repeat. I tried to get out of my head and needed to remind myself I was and am so much more than a positive or negative pregnancy test.

Pregnancy Journey

On the morning of March 28th, 2020, I was getting into the shower and decided to take a digital pregnancy test as my two-week wait was coming to an end. I sat the test down on the window and figured I would glance at it after the shower. Clearly, I am super impatient because I checked it once the timer was done. It read, ‘Pregnant.’

pregnancy test marked "pregnant"
Courtesy of Hillary Scarbath

I dropped to my knees, tears pouring down my cheeks. I couldn’t breathe. When my husband came through the door, I ran to him with pure excitement. This was it. We were going to be parents and I was on cloud 9. I laid my hand over my stomach, prayed that God would protect our baby, and excitedly shared the news with our families.

Nothing was abnormal with my pregnancy besides the awful morning sickness. We decided we were going to do a blood test to determine the gender of our baby around 10 weeks, even though I knew it was going to be a boy. I grew up with 4 sisters and a brother, so I had only thought of myself as being a girl mom. Because of that, I just knew I was going to be a boy mama.

My husband got the email that our results were in and he rushed to my job so we could open them together. We stood in the parking lot and nervously opened the email to see we were having a GIRL. I couldn’t believe it and I was definitely in total denial we were going to have a baby girl. I started buying all of the bows and clothes; this girl was our world!

We tossed some names around for a boy but had a hard time agreeing on a name for a girl. We said some names aloud and decided on Bodhi Magnolia Scarbath. We finally had a name to start calling her and I felt like all of my dreams were coming true. I was pregnant with a healthy baby girl, married to my best friend, had the best puppy, and we were loving life.

parents' tribute to daughter
Courtesy of Hillary Scarbath

On August 3rd, 2020, I called my doctor as I woke up to some cramping. As a precautionary measure, they asked me to come in to be seen at 9:45 a.m. My husband and I had to return a rental car and we stopped by my parents before we had to leave for our appointment. I went to the bathroom, noticed blood, and my mom and husband jumped in the car to take me to my appointment an hour away.

As we began driving down the road, I began cramping again. It was at this moment I realized I was having contractions at only 21 ½ weeks of gestation. I called the doctor’s office to tell them I was heading to the emergency room and they strongly advised against it. Something was clearly wrong and I knew I needed to get to the labor and delivery emergency room as soon as possible to make sure we could stop whatever was happening.

Derek and I got checked into L&D triage and, despite being in active labor, I laid in the bed for approximately 4 hours with no doctor coming to see me. When my doctor finally came to check me, she explained I was 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced. I was in full-blown labor and, at that point, was too far gone for an emergency cerclage, or cervical stitch. We were able to hold off on giving birth, but the hospital assured us they would do nothing to save our baby if she were born before 23 weeks. We requested to be transferred to another hospital but had no luck. Thus began the worst week of my life.

Infant Loss

On August 7th, 2020, Derek and I welcomed a perfect, breathing, beautiful baby girl into our family. Bodhi Magnolia Scarbath was born at 5:48 p.m. weighing 1 lb. 3.2 oz. and was 12 inches long. She was born at 22 weeks and 1 day, so by hospital policy, despite us begging, they refused any life-saving measures. She lived for almost 4 hours and was every bit of perfection.

parents holding the child they lost
Courtesy of Hillary Scarbath
shrine to daughter who died
Courtesy of Hillary Scarbath

After losing Bodhi, I required several surgeries to remove the leftover placenta. My husband had a Tonic Clonic seizure in his sleep, even though he had never had one before. My car engine died. We bought a brand new car. My job made me come back to work because I didn’t qualify for additional maternity leave since my baby died. I got 10 days of bereavement leave instead of 10 weeks of baby bonding. And then someone pulled out in front of us in our brand new car, putting us in a rental for 72 days. I was living in hell. Life really kept knocking us down and I wasn’t sure how much more I could take.

I went into a local pet store in October 2020 to grab dog food. I knew the cashier, an older lady, and because she saw I wasn’t pregnant anymore, she asked me how my baby was. I awkwardly, holding back tears, had to explain my baby died. She ‘comforted’ me by telling me she would be my surrogate at 50+ years old… who says that?! A lady behind me pulled me aside and began sharing her story of her twin boys that passed away at 24 weeks gestation. She shared words of encouragement and hope, and as I left she told me, ‘I have a feeling you’re going to get pregnant by the end of the year.’

Rainbow Baby

I left the store, called my husband, and then I called our fertility clinic. They gave us the okay and we began trying for another baby. Much to our surprise, we got pregnant on the first try and were due on August 5th, 2021 with another baby girl; just two days shy of Bodhi’s first birthday.

mom pregnant with rainbow baby
Courtesy of Haley Newton at Haley LeAnne Photography

I began going into preterm labor in March of 2021 but we were able to catch it at our 20-week anatomy scan. I was seeing a different set of doctors at a different hospital and they were extremely cautious and monitored me every other week. I received an emergency cerclage, was placed on bed rest, and was induced at 34 weeks due to preeclampsia. We welcomed another beautiful girl, Lenni, to our family on June 23rd, 2021.

My journey to motherhood hasn’t been anything like I had imagined. I never thought I would know the heartbreak of losing a child. I never thought I would be a bereaved mom at the age of 28; that I would have to look at my child’s urn every morning when I woke up.

Acts Of Kindness

I do things to honor Bodhi every single chance I can. I donated my breast milk to a local milk bank to ensure Bodhi’s legacy will be carried on by helping NICU babies up the East Coast. I volunteer my time and am a board member of a non-profit, Weighted Angels. Weighted Angels provides families in local hospitals who have lost their baby with a weighted animal that weighs close to their baby’s birth weight, so they don’t leave empty-handed. I created a fundraiser where we adopt two children in need for Christmas. I provide a hospital with a gift bag on her birthday, and it’s given to the baby girl born on August 7th, closest to 5:48 p.m. I pay for a birthday cake at a bakery for a family who is picking it up on August 7th. I purchased a bunch of Starbucks gift cards and passed them out in her honor, spreading positivity.

mom supporting other parents who lost children
Courtesy of Hillary Scarbath

Coping With Grief

Bodhi would have been 2 on August 7th. That’s 730 days since I’ve seen, kissed, held, or hugged her. I have woken up 730 days in a row without our oldest daughter. I’ve had people tell me it was God’s plan. I’ve had people tell me if she didn’t die, I wouldn’t have Lenni. I’ve had people say it’s weird we held our daughter as she passed. I couldn’t imagine saying these things to a mother or father who just lost their child.

I’ve been given the chance to parent another beautiful little girl. A little girl who is my world. A little girl who my heart needed. I talk about Bodhi to Lenni every day. I’ll play Bodhi’s heartbeat or show her pictures. I’ll take her angel stuffed animal and tell her to kiss sissy. Lenni wasn’t my first baby and she will always grow up knowing she has an older sister in Heaven. I know my girls would have been the best of friends!

I’ll never understand why this has happened to me or why it has or will happen to others. What I can say is my loss has given me a voice to advocate for infant loss. To help families know they aren’t alone in this journey. To help families honor their babies. To say their names and acknowledge these babies matter. To break the stigma and silence around losing a baby. When you lose a child, you never move on. You never ‘get over it.’ Being a loss mom is part of who I am and a part of who I will be for the rest of my life. When I share my grief journey, there is one thing I encourage loss parents to never lose, and that’s hope.

rainbow baby swaddled
Courtesy of Hillary Scarbath

The day I lost Bodhi, I lost a huge piece of my heart. It will never be fixed or healed, but honoring her and being a voice for others definitely helps to bring sunshine during my stormy days. Bodhi Magnolia Scarbath, our forever angel, we love you and miss you. You are helping change the world, Bodhi Girl.”

parents holding their daughter
Courtesy of Hillary Scarbath

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hillary Scarbath from Hampton Roads, VA. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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